Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is an important tool for people with diabetes to help manage their blood sugar levels. This beginner’s guide will provide an overview of what CGM is, how it works, and the benefits of using it. At 360care, our healthcare providers are registered and certified diabetes educators, so we can help you determine if CGM is right for your diabetes management.
What is Continuous Glucose Monitoring?
CGM devices are wearable technology that track glucose levels continuously throughout the day and night. The device has a small sensor that is inserted under the skin to measure interstitial fluid glucose levels. Unlike traditional fingerstick testing, CGM devices take glucose readings every few minutes, providing nearly 300 readings per day. This gives a comprehensive overview of how glucose levels are fluctuating based on food intake, exercise, medication, and other factors.
How Does CGM Work?
CGM devices have three main components:
- Sensor – inserted under the skin to measure glucose
- Transmitter – sends data from sensor to the receiver/monitor (not all CGM have a transmitter)
- Receiver/monitor – displays real-time glucose data. The sensor has a thin filament that detects glucose levels and transmits readings to the monitor via a wireless transmitter. The monitor displays the current glucose level, along with trends and patterns over time. Many CGM devices also have alarm features to alert for highs and lows.
Key Benefits of CGM
CGM offers many advantages over traditional blood glucose monitoring:
- Detects highs and lows – CGM alerts users to glucose fluctuations outside of normal range. This allows for early treatment of high and low blood sugar.
- Provides complete data – Fingerstick testing only gives periodic snapshots, while CGM shows glucose variations 24/7.
- Improves diabetes management – CGM data can inform treatment adjustments and lifestyle changes to better control blood sugar.
- Reduces hyper/hypoglycemia – Studies show CGM use decreases the frequency of high and low glucose episodes.
- Offers peace of mind – CGM allows users to see glucose trends, reducing worries about uncontrolled fluctuations.
Who Can Use CGM?
The main users of CGM are:
- People with type 1 diabetes – Real time CGM is considered standard of care for type 1 diabetes management.
- People with type 2 diabetes on insulin – CGM can help achieve tighter control over glucose levels.
- Parents/caregivers of children with diabetes – CGM provides visibility into a child’s glucose trends.
- Pregnant women with diabetes – CGM allows close monitoring to avoid complications.
Challenges and Limitations
While CGM offers many benefits, there are some limitations to consider:
- Sensor insertion – Inserting the sensor under skin can be uncomfortable or irritating for some users. Proper placement and rotation helps.
- Calibration required – Some CGM devices need periodic calibration with fingerstick tests for accuracy.
- Costs – The upfront costs of CGM devices and ongoing supply purchases may be prohibitive for some users. Insurance coverage is improving.
- Adhesive irritation – Some users experience skin irritation from medical adhesive used. Trying different tapes or locations can help alleviate this.
- Alarm fatigue – Frequent alerts for highs/lows can disrupt sleep or become overwhelming. Adjustable alerts help reduce notification fatigue.
Getting Started with CGM
If you’re considering CGM, have an open discussion with your healthcare provider about whether it could benefit your diabetes management routine. It’s important to learn how to properly insert sensors, calibrate the device, customize alerts and alarms, and interpret glucose data. Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to optimize your CGM settings and get used to wearing it daily. Consistency is key – stick with it to gain the full advantages of CGM!